Her flesh is like parchment, peeled from a sapling and pressed against human flesh. Beneath it, autumn red blood pulses beneath tan skin, and half furled leaves peek out from beneath the sleeves and collar of her dark robe.
It’s not just her look that suggests a tree, however; it’s in the way she moves. The way her hair blows in the wind like the gust-shuddered boughs of a tall tree. Or in the way that her body sways gently back and forth even though her feet are firmly planted against the ground.
Oh, but there’s a bit of bird in there, too —just the eyes, round and dark and black. You can never be sure if she’s looking directly at you or at somebody else with those gleaming, soul-drinking eyes. And sometimes, the way red feathers seem to catch on a wind in her wake before disappearing entirely…
Red Wren has reportedly been performing the Children’s Contract for six or seven years, each year teaching a different freehold how to invoke the Contract. All evidence indicates that the ritual works — she can even produce contact information for Lost who can vouch for the efficacy of the magic in other freeholds she’s visited.
Within the last year, the number of children gone missing in the city has risen to frightening numbers. Every other night the news has another story of a missing or abducted child. By now, bodies should have turned up living or dead. None have. Some of the local Lost assume the worst: it’s the True Fae, plucking children from the world as casually as you might pick flowers from a garden. Some of the Lost refuse to believe the Others can be so busy without having been spotted in action.
A month ago, an Autumn Court witch known as Red Wren came to the city. She offered the rulers of the Courts and all the changelings of the freehold a way to stop the abductions of mortal children from the city. She offered them the Children’s Contract. It is a ceremony she would perform and then teach to others so that the ritual may be kept every year upon the Autumnal Equinox.
The freehold’s personas were evenly split on whether or not the Children’s Contract should or should not be performed for various reasons on all sides.
While not universally so, for the most part the split was along Courtly lines:
The Summer Court found it a grotesque offer.
The Winter Court noted that the grief born of so many missing children was, while regrettable, perhaps necessary.
Seeing as how the ritual would be performed on the Autumnal Equinox, that essentially put the Autumn Court into the position of deciding the fate of the ritual and the city’s children. They decided to press ahead with it.
At Red Wren’s behest, one of the Freehold’s motleys kidnapped a child of her choosing…